A survey released at the 24th National Immunization Day reveals that 16% of Brazilians consider it unnecessary to give their children vaccines against diseases that no longer circulate in the country. The data is from the Vaccination Coverage Survey of children born in 2017 and 2018. More than 38,000 interviews were carried out for the survey.
The event ends this Saturday (10) at the Frei Caneca Convention Center, in São Paulo.
Although it is apparently small in relation to the sample, the number raises concern among specialists, since Brazil has been failing to meet the vaccination coverage targets and has shown a decline in vaccination numbers since 2015. Without meeting the targets, the chances of the Brazil to have diseases that, until then, were considered eliminated or controlled, such as poliomyelitis.
As Brazil has not recorded cases of poliomyelitis since 1989, many people mistakenly think that it is no longer necessary to be vaccinated against the disease. What happens, however, is that the fewer people vaccinated, the greater the risk of the disease developing again in the country. This was the case with measles, for example. Brazil received the certificate of elimination of the disease in 2016, but three years later, with low vaccination coverage, the country lost recognition for not being able to control a measles outbreak, which spread to several states.
The survey also showed that a small number of people (about 3% of respondents) decided not to take their children to receive one or more vaccines. Of this total, 24.5% reported that they did not do so because of the covid-19 pandemic, or for fear of the reaction to vaccines (24.4%).
Others said they had tried to take their children for vaccinations, but found it difficult to do so (7.6% of respondents). The main difficulty reported was the fact that the health center was far from home or work (which was pointed out by 21% of those who said they had difficulties), followed by lack of time (16.6%), inadequate functioning of the post (14.1%) and even lack of means of transport to get to the vaccination site (12%).
“In the study, we observed that there are three main aspects: the first is the non-need to vaccinate against diseases that are believed to no longer exist, but which do exist. The second aspect is the fear of serious reactions and the third, difficulty of access and infrastructure of the units. This set means that we have insufficient vaccine coverage for disease control”, said José Cassio de Moraes, professor at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Santa Casa de São Paulo and coordinator of the survey.
“The consequence of vaccine hesitancy, which is due to multiple aspects, is that coverage is low. This allows the return of already eliminated diseases such as polio; [gera] difficulties in eliminating measles, which we already had; and an increase in cases of whooping cough, diphtheria and other immunosuppressible diseases,” said Moraes, in an interview with Brazil Agency.
“Brazil had an important success in this program [nacional de imunizações]. It was considered a leading program in the world, both in coverage and in the number of vaccines included, but today we run the risk of falling almost to the last place”, lamented the professor.
For Moraes, it is a worrying situation. “By 2015, we were able to reach a very good level of coverage. We have good infrastructure: almost 38,000 vaccine rooms, we can easily administer 2 million doses a day, as was shown during the covid-19 pandemic, but we need to communicate well with the population. We don’t have proper communication,” he said. “We can come back when diseases occur and have hospitals full of vaccine-preventable diseases,” he added.
The numbers also worry the representative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Lely Guzman. “There is a lot of misinformation. And now, with social media, disinformation comes much faster. We need to be ahead to identify what is generating the misinformation, where these concerns are being generated, so that we can demonstrate the confidence and safety of vaccines,” Lely Guzman told the report.
According to Lely, in the last two years of the pandemic, the coverage of routine vaccination programs has dropped a lot, not only in Brazil, but throughout the region. “And the World Health Organization [OMS]is making a call because, in all regions, the fall was very important, which puts at risk the return of diseases that were already controlled, that were in the process of being eliminated and diseases that are still eradicated.”
She defended the need to sensitize communities, authorities, the media, universities, society, so that people can believe in the vaccine again. “We have to join forces”, she stressed.
Researcher José Cassio de Moraes also points out the union of efforts as an important strategy for the resumption of high levels of vaccination in the country. “There has to be a union of efforts between the three levels of government: federal, state and municipal. Good communication between these three levels and the population and working with health professionals to train them for vaccines,” he said.
Translated to english by RJ983
From Brazil, by EBC News